Add Ritual to the Everyday

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I’m on my millionth night home alone with my kids. I want to check the drama there. My oldest is 4. Well, 4 years, 2 months, 10 days. So, I’ve known her in my arms for 1,530 days. I used a calculator. There’s no statistical way, then, that this is my millionth night alone with her. In fact, in all of 2020, I may not have spent a single night alone with my kids. The little blessings of Covid. So, assuming those 365 days were a solid two-parent run, let’s then figure I’ve probably been alone with my kids … 200 nights. That’s a little under twenty percent of nights. How is it only 200 nights? The million guess was closer. I just feel it.

It’s Cinco de Mayo. So, around 5pm (call it 5pm – but honestly it was 4:42pm), I decided to pour myself a single glass of red wine and sit for dinner with them. They asked, “What are you drinking?” First, they know damn well what I’m drinking. It’s our millionth / two-hundredth rodeo after all. And, to be clear, I haven’t had a glass of wine every one of those million nights. But I also wouldn’t judge anyone who did. It’s just a long day, see.

They think it’s funny to ask about my wine, if they can have my wine, what my wine is made of. So, I said, “It’s wine.” And they said, “Why?” And I said, “Because it’s Thursday niiiiggght, and I’m hoooommmeee, with kids!” And they asked, “Is that a real song?” They always ask that. They can’t tell if I’ve personally composed “Hit the Road, Jack,” (I haven’t) or “Stinky Vinegar Feet” (I have, in fact!), so it’s a question they like clarity on.

So I told them, “No, it’s not a real song, but it’s based on a real song.” And we ate pizza and listened to NSYNC after that.

This is what my kids call “the greenish blue” part of the day. We have a little rainbow rhythm chart. I painted it with water colors during one of our many art times. I wrote in all the parts of our day, and we follow it closely. There’s time for meditation and self care, time for art and tea, and, as the colors turn from warm to cold at the bottom of the rainbow, time to set the stage for bed. That’s dinner, music time, bath, self-care, stories, songs (not to be confused with music time), and bed.

The green-blue part of the day can be the trickiest. It’s the definition of routine. While we may strike out and change up our “nature outing” nearly daily, we don’t often mix things up at bedtime. Kids find comfort in routine. I do, too, truly. But, after a million nights of holding the routine, I also tire of it.

See, routine grounds us. But, people need to be grounded and uplifted. We need to feel a personal connection to the day but also a universal connection to something greater than our daily habits. We need to feel the simple monotony of a good wash but also the beautiful novelty of a new bath bomb scent. We need not just routine but also ritual.

Ritualization is the act of turning the routine holy. It is the third space where we neither abandon comfort nor default to it. It is the golden thread of a spiritual existence.

So, tonight, during the blue-green time of day, we ate pizza and learned NSYNC songs and tickled each other. I took moments to look into each of their eyes and remind them of the deep love we share, of how special they are, that they are cherished and forgiven for any ills of the day.

And, during music time, I reminded myself to breathe in their scent and feel their weight on my body as I danced them around the room.

And, most of all, during song time, I sang the lullabies my Nana handed down to me and told the stories of her deep voice as she sat in the chair in the corner of the bunk room at the lake cottage, windows open but for screens that kept out mosquitos but not the squeaky sounds of late-evening swings at the park next door.

I sang the songs in her same deep voice. I tried my best to get the “toorah loorah” just right.

This millionth evening alone together came at the end of a long day. They were home from school sick. Their dad is out of town. I cancelled my work to wipe their snot. I wanted nothing to do with ritual.

And that is the whole point of ritual. You just do it. You do it because it’s been done before, a million times by you and a million times by your mom and a million times by hers. And when you’re performing the ritual, all the moms stand behind you, and they sing in their deep voices, and they nod to say, “yep, you got the toorah loorahs just right.”

And you go to bed with joy in your heart.

Goodnight, friends. Whether you got paid today or not (That’s an NSYNC reference. I didn’t even come close to gettin’ paid today.), I hope you can smile like Kool-Aid. (That’s also an NSYNC reference. Don’t tell me these lyrics aren’t fire.)

Ya people say my solo is impossible
But when I get up on the mic, yo, I’m unstoppable
And it’s probable when ya hear our voices laid down
You’ll be boppin’ your head to this real tight sound
Now I know ya thought that ya had me played (played)
The check is in the mail I got made (made)
And if you’ll notice my smile is like Kool-Aid
‘Cause I just (just) got (got) paid (paid) Uh

– whatever lyrical genius was behind this particular hit